The Most Dangerous Game has a mood that is primarily full of suspense. In the beginning, before Rainsford falls off the boat, it is humorously ominous because Rainsford doesn't have the suspicions of the sailors. Rather, he has all the confidence in the world. Then, ironically, he is the one who falls overboard. As the storyline continues, the mood becomes disgustingly repulsive when readers realize that General Zaroff is actually hunting human beings. As the story draws closer to the climax and ultimately the resolution, readers ally with Rainsford and hope for his ultimate success against Zaroff. In that moment readers are completely satisfied that Rainsford wins.
The mood is clearly suspenseful, and readers are led into an adventure story that many find compelling. It is one of the most compelling themes of literature, and the conflict of man against man, hunter and hunted, is fairly common. The interesting twist here is that the author misleads most readers into making Rainsford into the sympathetic hero of the story. By then end, we do root for him to overcome Zaroff. But why? Is Rainsford a good guy? Some readers seem to think so. If you look closely, however, he is an arrogant man, interested only in his own well being. Early in his conversation with Zaroff, Rainsford is told there are sailors caged in the basement for future hunts. At the end, after he dispatches Zaroff, Rainsford assumes Zaroff's place. He sleeps a comfortable sleep in Zaroff's bed. And the men in the basement? Rainsford says and does nothing. The mood then is one of suspense, but there is an undercurrent as well of complicity of the audience. Is Rainsford any different from Zaroff? Are we?